Future Teachers: Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

In the interest of proper attribution, the title of my blog today, absent the “future teachers,” is a quote from Mark Twain. While there are clearly many messages that could be extrapolated here, for our purposes today, let’s talk about being an individual. More specifically, how do you be an individual in the career search process?

One of the things about training to be a qualified professional, whether doctor, nurse, lawyer, or teacher is that there is a large degree of standardization in the training. This is both a strength and a challenge when working on your career. If everyone you trained with has similar training, it can come down to how well you know a subject, how well you interview and present on the subject, and what else you do to create a value added proposition to your training.

Let’s be honest here, for each job opening, there is only one candidate selected, so the overwhelming majority is in the rejected pile.

Take a look around you, look at your friends and colleagues in your programs. Do you find a lot of common ground? Have you ever been in a conversation where someone mentions America Reads, JumpStart, and Big Brothers Big Sisters and you think “Hey, I’ve done that too!” Or have you shared that collective angst of the difficult class or difficult professor. All these shared experiences can build a feeling of connection, but the other side of this is, if we all do the same things, how do I stand out?

In previous blogs I have espoused the virtues of getting involved through clubs, networking, and informational interviewing. Let’s talk now about leveraging technology, specifically, LinkedIn groups.

For the uninitiated, LinkedIn, in addition to being able to connect you with individuals, also has a “groups” function wherein you can search on general topics such as education, marketing, and research, down to highly specific titles like Big Brothers Big Sisters Alumni or Technology in Education. These groups contain discussions amongst individuals about trends, ideas, and opportunities in discrete subfields within a larger topic.

Presently, if you do a groups search with the keyword “education” you will find more than 40,000 groups and they are as diverse and focused as you can imagine.

The bottom line: if you want to stand out, take a few moments to pause and reflect on who you are and who you want to be as a professional. What gets you excited about your future profession? What projects have you done that were so engaging they stay with you now. Reflect on those, then go and start seeking others who can build on that knowledge, and with whom you can share. I guarantee you will learn and contribute something new and as an added benefit, you will have that extra “something” that takes you out of the majority and into the job and career you have worked hard for.

By Michael Petro
Michael Petro Assistant Director, Internal Relations Michael Petro